Smiler rollercoaster to reopen at Alton Towers


The Alton Towers theme park is reopening its Smiler rollercoaster - nine months after an accident which left five people with serious or life-changing injuries.

The Staffordshire theme park said in a statement that it had sought to "learn every possible lesson" from last June's crash before deciding to recommence operation of the £18 million ride.

Two teenage passengers - Vicky Balch and Leah Washington - underwent leg amputations after their carriage collided with a stationary car on the Smiler ride on June 2.

Three other people were seriously injured in the crash, which park owner Merlin Entertainments said was due to human error.

Among the victims was Miss Washington's boyfriend, Joe Pugh, who was left with life-changing injuries when both his kneecaps were shattered.

Speaking to ITV's Good Morning Britain on the eve of Saturday's reopening, Mr Pugh, from Barnsley, said he would have preferred the ride to have remained shut.

"I think it would have been a bit unrealistic if we had both said 'I don't think it's ever going to reopen again' because it always was going to, but if people choose to go on it that's up to them," Mr Pugh said. 

"Seeing it go round, it's not something that I want to see. I would have preferred for it to be closed."

In its statement, Alton Towers said the safety of its guests and employees must always be paramount.

The statement added: "We have sought to learn every possible lesson to help ensure there is no repeat of what happened.

"The park has implemented a number of changes to the way the ride is operated, including enhanced training and additional safety procedures.

"All of the resort's rides and attractions are subject to a thorough annual safety inspection and testing regime through third party ride safety specialists.

"The Smiler has been re-examined and issued with a Document of Compliance as part of this scheme before reopening."

A criminal prosecution of Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd, which manages Alton Towers, was announced by the Health and Safety Executive in February.

The case against the company, alleging a breach of health and safety law, is due to be heard at North Staffordshire Justice Centre next month.